MANILA, Philippines – The open hitter position was a big question mark for De La Salle University heading into the UAAP Season 79 tournament, with the graduation of former MVP Ara Galang and Cyd Demecillo leaving holes in the Lady Spikers' wings.
So far, La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus has used three players as open hitters. He usually starts games with Desiree Cheng and Tin Tiamzon, and brings May Luna off the bench when the Lady Spikers need a boost of energy.
Cheng and Tiamzon are both steady players, especially in terms of floor defense, but Luna is fast becoming a fan favorite, thanks to her powerful attacks and a wicked jump serve.
All three players were given their time in La Salle's four-set victory over National University (NU) last week, with Cheng playing all four sets, and Luna coming in to spell Tiamzon late in the first. The three players combined for 13 points in the match.
But for De Jesus, his open hitters still need to play with more consistency and minimize their errors, especially if they hope to ease the burden on Kianna Dy and Majoy Baron, who have turned out to be La Salle's most reliable options on offense.
"Medyo inconsistent," De Jesus said of his wing players. "'Pag mayroong inconsistent sa team, hindi pwede 'yung isa, dalawa, or tatlong errors tapos hahayan mo pa sa loob. Kailangan, ma-avoid 'yung mga errors."
[They're inconsistent. If a player makes one, two, or three errors, you can't keep them inside the court. They have to avoid errors.]
Repeated errors are dangerous, warned De Jesus, as it can bring down a team's morale.
"Hindi dapat nakikitaan ng errors pag nasa loob ng court," he said. "Madaling makahila at maka-down ng morale 'yung mga players na gumagawa ng errors na wala namang mahirap na ginagawa."
[You shouldn't commit errors when you're inside the court. Players who are error-prone can bring down a team's morale, especially if there's nothing that's really challenging in what they are supposed to do.]
Tiamzon believes that the key to becoming more consistent is simply to stop overthinking.
"I just have to really trust in the process and in the system na ginagawa ni coach," said Tiamzon. "And trust in myself."
She also insists that getting subbed out in favor of Luna is not affecting her confidence in any way.
"Pag ganoon, ipapakita ko na lang kay coach na next time na papasok ako, babawi ako," she said.
[I just have to bounce back next time coach sends me into the game.]
Luna, for her part, is just happy to be back on the court after recovering from a back injury, though she is also the first to admit that her conditioning is not yet as good as it can be.
"Alam ko naman kasi na hindi parang sili 'yung kundisyon ng tao na aanghang agad, kailangan talaga may time and maunti-unti 'yung pagtatrabaho para makabalik; 'yun 'yung thinking ko," she said.
[Conditioning takes time, and I have to work hard to bring back my form.]
Like Tiamzon, Luna sees her coach's substitution patterns as a challenge.
"Ginagamit ko siyang motivation kasi lahat naman ng players gusto maglaro. At the same time, kailangan talaga double time ako," she said.
[I use it as motivation because all players want to play. At the same time, I know I have to work double-time.]
La Salle will return to action on Sunday against University of the Philippines, one of two teams to beat them in the first round of the UAAP Season 79 tournament.
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